Scott Hanselman

Over 400 Virtual Machine Images of open source software stacks in the VM Depot Azure Gallery

August 13, 2013 Comment on this post [16] Posted in Azure | Open Source
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Open Source VM Images in Azure

When you want to make a new Virtual Machine from the Azure Portal, from the menu you "Create New | Virtual Machine" and you'll see the default images alongside images you have uploaded or created yourself.

A list of a bunch of Windows images

There's a pile of Windows stuff, and if you scroll down, some good Linux images like openSUSE, CentOS and Ubuntu.

Note: There's also a Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 Preview, so remember, you can sign up for a free Azure trial and remote into Visual Studio in the cloud and mess around if you like. If you have MSDN you have credits already, so associate your MSDN with Azure.

It's nice to have Linux on Azure, but this isn't the richest selection of images.

A list of a bunch of Linux images

There SHOULD be a new section here, in my opinion.

There should be a community section. There isn't. Yet.

Or here:

There should be an Open Source section. There isn't. Yet.

Ah, but if you go to the Virtual Machines area, then click Images, there is a link to Browse VM Depot. One of the great secrets of Azure. I'm working with them to get this more obvious, because it really is epic.

You can click Browse VM Depot at the bottom of the Images Pivot

And then…bam. Now we're talking.

Wow, a pile of existing images. More than 400, in fact.

There’s actually over 400 open source VM images in there, made by the community and companies like BitNami, and hosted by MS Open Tech. You can create VMs from this interface within the Azure Portal, but I think it's even easier to make VMs from the command line.

Get the Azure Command Line

This assumes you have the Azure Command Line Tools. You can get them one of two ways. If you have node and npm, just install azure-cli like this:

npm install azure-cli --g

Then get your account certificates and import it.

azure account download
azure account import "foo.publishsettings"

Then, select a subscription. This is all a one-time thing.

azure account set "some other account name"

At this point I can "azure vm create" this and that. I can manage most of the Azure Cloud from the command line. This tool works on Linux, Windows and Mac, is open source and written in JavaScript.

Creating a VM from an VM Depot Image

Let's say I want a Redis image. I can visit and find a Redis one. Here's a customized Ubuntu 12.04 image with Redis configured and hardened security.

If I select Deployment Script at the top, I will get a command line like this:

azure vm create YOUR_DNS_PREFIX -o vmdepot-147-6-1 -l "West US" YOUR_USER_NAME [PASSWORD] --ssh 

That vmdepot number there is the image identifier that tells Azure to copy that VM image over from the VM depot and make a new instance. Make sure you add --ssh or you won't be able to get in at all!

C:\>azure vm create hanselredis -o vmdepot-147-6-1 -l "West US" scott mypassword --ssh
info: Executing command vm create
+ Looking up community image
+ Retrieving storage accounts
+ Copying blob
+ Looking up image
+ Looking up cloud service
+ Creating cloud service
+ Creating VM
info: Deleting image
info: VM image deleted: vmdepot-147-6-1-8d169700
info: Blob deleted:
info: vm create command OK

At this point Azure has made the VM from this image. You can than open up endpoints and port forward to the outside world so you can access your service, or create virtual internal networks to keep this VM private.

VM Highlights

A lot of these images come from a startup called Bitnami that configures images with popular packages. Some highlights of this depot, IMHO, are Discourse, the new forum software from Jeff Atwood and friends:


There's a recent Ruby Stack image:

The Ruby Stack

And a good Drupal one:


As well as a nice Debian Wheezy image:


Remember, these are community driven so YOU can publish images of your open source stack if you want.

As with all galleries of community-grown stuff there will be some gems and some duds. I like the Bitnami stuff, for example, as they appear to know what they are doing. Regardless, use good sense and explore and evaluate before you bet your startup on an image. Still, these are a great way to get a VM running in minutes, not hours or days.

If you think that these images are useful, feel free to sound off in the comments and guilt inform the Powers That Be that you think this is useful. Or not. (I will make sure they see these)

Related Links:

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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August 13, 2013 2:47
Hi Scott,

Thanks for sharing, this is really great and nice to know! 400 images..interesting...i'm sure my spending limit will be reached ;)
August 13, 2013 2:57
Out of curiosity, how safe are all these free images? What garantee do we have that they don't contain any form of spyware, malware, or other types of <not_in_my_yard>ware?
August 13, 2013 3:05
Martin - It's always possible, but the VM Depot time will perform takedowns as complaints come in. It's the same with really any package gallery. There's always a chance.
August 13, 2013 3:07
VM depot is great but another UI adjustment I would like to see is grouping the VM's having discourse 0.9.0-1, discourse 0.9.1-0, discourse on the vm list seems a little odd to me. I think it would be better if you select discourse and then the version after. Course it may be more complex if the VM runs more than one core piece of software.
August 13, 2013 3:11
Pete - I agree. It makes it hard to see what the newest is.
August 13, 2013 4:26
Hummm...very nice to know. How about integrating the vm's offered on the site into this list so I can spin up multiple versions of IE just for testing?
August 13, 2013 8:24
Thanks! I was just about to create a Discourse VM. You just saved me some time.
August 13, 2013 16:13
Is there a guide for how to create images and get them into the gallery?
August 13, 2013 21:29
Tom - here is the info on how to create VHD images and publish them to VM Depot. Let me know if you need more info, and one of our team members will guide you through the process.
August 14, 2013 2:37
Actually it is even more awesome than what you describe. It seems that BitNami is providing most of their images for Azure.

For those that don't know BitNami has been around for quite a while and has packages for almost every open stack you can imagine.

You can download and use them locally as well.

This makes Azure even more usable to many.I know it makes me happy !

Chip Burris
August 14, 2013 15:06
According to Edward Snowdon, the NSA have direct access to Microsoft's user data. Does this include the Azure platform? Will my company's data be safe from the snooping eyes of the NSA if I host it here?

This is a concern!
August 15, 2013 6:58
Yes, don't worry we will not look into your stuff.
August 19, 2013 5:14
While addressing the findability of the Depot you might point out how overly visible the static banner is. Fully 1/2 my screen is devoted to static chrome - ick.
August 26, 2013 20:08
So you could put up a Raspberry Pi emulation image for doing server based on demand compiles.
October 11, 2013 20:01
Next step is to make it easy to create Azure VM's with XP/Vista/Win7/Win8 - 90 day trial or whatever - for testing purposes. Don't make everyone jump through the same hoops!
October 16, 2013 2:49
How do you manage sharing virtual machine images in Azure and Since open source images are also uploaded by the community. How do you prevent an attacker from examining virtual machine image templates?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.